On third album Skying The Horrors have managed to marry their contradictory past and release a set of songs that are as captivating as they are ambiguous.
The Horrors released single ‘Sheena is a Parasite’ and were promptly heralded as all things to all people by notoriously flightly music press the NME, who, after the band released debut album-proper Strange House proceeded to deride their systematic interpretation of punk. It was arguably this that made the band retreat beneath their monochromatic colour palette for a couple of years and return with a lilting, atmospheric eight minute single ‘Sea Within a Sea’ from sophomore Primary Colours, an album that referenced a whole new set of genres and bands.
This time around rather than step away from their roots The Horrors join the antithetical elements Strange House and Primary Colours possessed – short, sharp, messy punk and cinematic, eloborate construction respectively – on their third album, the appropriately ambiguous Skying. Unlike their sophomore where their musical references were as clear as the bowl cuts and dry ice present in their aesthetic, they have appropriated their inspiration in an expert way, tilting their head to both obscure enough and eclectic enough genres and bands that Skying as an album sounds refreshing, progressive even.
‘Changing the Rain’ opens the album with lilting orchestration fit to replace the likes of – and I know this is a big call – ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ on the Cruel Intentions soundtrack, such is the level of its cinematic intensity, although towards the four minute mark scrappy percussion enters the fray, introducing their punk aesthetic and setting this contradictory tone up for the rest of the album. Single ‘I Can See Through You’ explores the same road the aforementioned does albeit in a more accessible way - monotonously aggressive drumming is married to a loud-quiet balance between verse and chorus - and is more Simple Minds-via-John Hughes than sexualized nineties epic. Tracks like ‘Endless Blue’, ‘Still Life’ and ‘Oceans Burning’ are more experimental, taking a few listens to reveal their punky linch pin.
The title, the album cover and the lyrical sentiment are all lofty, but married to such exhaustively referenced and expertly crafted music this ambiguity feels telling and layered rather than vapid and meaningless. It’s to their credit that Skying – unlike both their debut and sophomore – is both so referential and yet gives nothing away, coming out the other side sounding exciting and fresh. It's suggestive of a band with only more tricks up their sleeves on albums to come, they’re just unlikely to tell anyone about it.